Earlier this year, pre-coronavirus, Buffer published a survey of 3,500 home workers, based around the world. It revealed that their two biggest struggles are loneliness (20%) and difficulties with communication and collaboration (20%).
Now, as billions of us find ourselves guinea pigs in a giant global remote working experiment, we must quickly work out how to counter loneliness, help dispersed teams work seamlessly, and collaborate on projects from afar. These tips should help…
Engineer casual collisions
Some Silicon Valley tech giants have architecturally designed offices around ‘casual collisions’: those moments when people from different teams meet in the lunch queue or over coffee, which leads to a conversation, which might result in an innovative, high-value project.
While remote teams can’t bump into one another around the watercooler, they can still be encouraged to talk. Some companies have found success in pairing up employees at random for a half-hour weekly video call. Others have created themed conversation channels for all sorts of topics, from growing your own vegetables, to parenthood to sci-fi. But, make no mistake, this isn’t idle chitchat. It brings individuals from different teams together through their interests, which may result in those valuable collaborations.
Invest in the right tools
Communication apps like Zoom and Slack are brilliant for keeping in touch and checking in, but companies may find they can only support project collaboration to a point. As well as basic functions like file sharing and synchronised file updates, sophisticated collaboration software will offer accurate status reports and scheduling functionality. That means teams can set deadlines and reminders and chart their progress, as well as offering workflow automation and project management tools.
Make communication a business priority
A staggering 92% of employees feel video technology improves relationships and teamwork, a survey by Polycom found. And yet it’s all too easy to default to instant messaging. The trouble with short messages is that it can be very hard to interpret their intended tone and meaning.
Make collaboration easier by creating a set of communication guidelines together. Perhaps you’ll all agree that sarcasm is best avoided in written communications, that emojis should be used sparingly and only to signal tone, that video should be the default for brainstorming, and that email ought to be used for anything that could need a searchable ‘paper’ trail.
Organise after-work events
While paintball and trampolining are off the cards for the foreseeable future, you can still encourage team bonding, which will improve collaboration. Since coronavirus forced us into lockdown, people have been busy devising quizzes and games for their friends and family, so this may be something your employees will be happy to lead on.
Alternatively, consider investing in some video games your team can play together. Tech company Remo spent seven months testing 70 online games after transitioning from being an office-based business to being fully remote. The aim was to replicate in-person bonding experiences in a creative, dynamic way online. The result? It found playing games as a team improved creativity, quick-thinking, teamwork, confidence, communication and problem-solving – among many other soft skills.
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Nigel Davies is CEO of digital workplace Claromentis, which helps companies all over the world create their perfect virtual place to work, collaborate and engage.
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